Ashcroft Overrides Aided Suicide Law

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WASHINGTON?Attorney General John Ashcroft sought Tuesday to override the nation’s only law allowing assisted suicide, declaring that taking the life of a terminally ill patient is not a “legitimate medical purpose” for federally-controlled drugs.

Doctors who use such drugs to help patients die, as permitted under the Oregon law, face suspension or revocation of their licenses to prescribe drugs, Ashcroft said in a letter to Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson.

The order does not call for criminal prosecution of doctors. And it does stipulate that pain management is a valid medical use of controlled substances.

Still, right-to-die groups and other supporters of the Oregon law were angry that Ashcroft reversed the June 1998 order by his predecessor, Janet Reno, who prohibited federal drug agents from moving against doctors who use Oregon’s law.